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More about cats and dogs

Food for Thought

Curiosity and research uncovered a number of interesting things about pet behavior. Some behavior is almost impossible to train out of your pet, even though it is ancestral and not necessarily relative to the lives of our family pets.
Why do cats and dogs turn around so many times before they lie down? It seems that wild cats and dogs like to lie in grassy places and the turning around packs down the grass to make a soft, cushiony bed. And it is that primal memory that causes them to continue to do that on the living room carpet or their doggie beds. And, it’s the same reason that your cat kneads your lap before she settles down to help you watch television.
Cats persist in scratching the furniture partly to clean and sharpen their claws. It also helps them to stretch after waking from a nap. This is one reason you should keep a scratching post near your cat’s favorite sleeping place. Another reason they do it is because, in the wild, cats leave scratch marks on trees to let other cats know that they were there. It is one way they mark their hunting territory. When there are strangers around, your cat is more apt to begin clawing at the upholstery. They also leave scent markings behind by rubbing against objects. If your cat rubs against you, chances are she’s trying to tell the rest of the world “this person is mine.” You may notice that this happens often when strange people or other animals enter your home. Both of these catly behaviors are difficult to break– they are so deeply ingrained in the species. You should give careful thought before having your cat de-clawed, though. Cats need their claws to defend themselves and to escape from danger by climbing. A de-clawed cat should never be allowed outdoors alone. A cat’s claws might be compared to your fingers. Would you deliberately have your fingers amputated? De-clawing is not only painful, it can be crippling and disfiguring.
Unfortunately, because cats’ claws are sheathed (retractable) they harbor bacteria that can cause serious infections if your cat scratches you. Cat scratches should be cleaned and treated with disinfectants promptly.
The fact that there seem to be so many different breeds of cats and dogs is mostly attributable to man. Once these animals became domesticated, owners chose animals with specific traits for various reasons. This eventually led to selective breeding, resulting in what we think of as many different breeds. All domestic dogs, no matter how diverse, are descendants of wolves, and their relationship with man has developed from the earliest days of mankind’s living together in groups.
Once man ceased to be strictly hunters and gatherers and began cultivating crops, raising livestock and living in communities, there developed certain habits and behaviors that attracted the wolves. Not the least of these was the village garbage dump, where the wolves learned they could find an easy meal. The bolder of the wolves grew less and less wary of man, and man, at the same time, grew less wary of the wolves. Before long, they had come to a sort of truce where the wolves depended on man as a way to obtain food, and man began to depend on the wolves as guardians for their livestock and property, as hunting companions, and eventually, as pets. Dogs came to “love” man because of the easy food. And that is why, even today, it still works to reward your dog with food for obeying a command or mastering a new trick.
Cats came to be necessary to man at an early stage also. Once man began raising livestock and cultivating grain crops, rats and mice were attracted to the stores of grain and would have overtaken their primitive settlements without the services of cats. Those rodents have been, by far, the most destructive creatures throughout history. They multiply rapidly, destroy and befoul food, and spread disease. Cats have always been the most efficient way to control the population of rodents. The Egyptians, being historically a nation largely dependent on its grain, have kept cats as servants and pets for over 4,000 years, and in the past have ceded them a god-like status. Phoenician sailors brought domestic cats from Egypt and introduced them into Europe, where they interbred with some of the wild cats native to Europe, and several breeds of domestic cats eventually developed. Because cats do not live and hunt in packs as dogs do, but are independent hunters, their relationship with man has not become the true partnership that the man-dog relationship has.